Anyone can start a retail business. Two words . . . Lemonade Stand! Am I right? All retail business is pretty simple, it’s exactly like your childhood project, just scaled up. Open up for business with a popular product, in a location with some traffic and charge a fair price, badda-bing-badda-boom. Let’s analyse a bit, let’s see, rent – zero, wages – zero, input costs – zero, advertising costs – zero, taxes – zero, profit margin – woohoo!!!
Wayne Huizenga made several fortunes consolidating businesses. He first did it in garbage building Waste Management inc., he then did it in video rental building Blockbuster and then did it with Auto Nation. Let’s take Huizenga’s template and consolidate the lemonade stand business . . . then we’ll do an IPO and be rich.
What we have here is a shot of an ad on the back of a Calgary Transit bus. It says “Faster. Easier. Cheaper.” and under that is says “Two outta three ain’t bad.” Many Calgary drivers would argue vigorously, but first a little background. The ad is for the Calgary Parking Authority which has eliminated parking meters in all zones they control and have implemented a system called “ParkPlus.” This system requires that the driver pay at a pay station located somewhere nearby, or if they set up an account and link it to their cell phone they can activate and deactivate parking sessions with their cell phone. With this method of payment, money has be deposited in the account in advance. This program has recently been expanded to include all of their surface lots and parking structures.
Parking in downtown Calgary is often reported to be the most expensive in Canada and among the most expensive in North America. As the downtown has been developed, the city has discouraged parking development and encouraged the use of public transit. This has lead to parking being in short supply, and demand has driven up rates. Parking in most of downtown is $5.00 per hour. Parking rates are a hot button issue with drivers that have to park downtown. I suggest the Calgary Parking Authority shouldn’t even go here. By including the word “Cheaper” on this ad they are reminding people of something that they are angry about. “Faster and Easier” doesn’t come close to outweighing the fact that their rates are a long long way from “Cheaper.” Two outta three ain’t nearly good enough.
This bus bench is located on a street that I travel from time to time. Every time I drive past I am given to contemplating the motivation behind the message. Because I stopped today to take a photo, I now have little doubt what the business owner is trying to communicate. We had a heck of a spring snow storm over the weekend as you can see. I stopped, brushed snow from the bench, took my picture and now we can now take in all of the message. But first, if you aren’t from around here let me give you a little background on the business category.
The Province of Alberta privatized the registry business some time ago. If you want a driver’s license, marriage licence, vehicle registration, a copy of your Alberta birth certificate or even a license to run a raffle for your daughter’s soccer team you go to one of the many privately run registry offices. Land titles, vital statistics, there’s a lot that they cover. You can check them out online to understand the scope.
Now back to the message on the bus bench. When you drive past, even after months of passing this bench all you are left with is “GET OFF THE BUS” and their name. It’s interesting that the local transit company has a bench imploring people to stop using their service, but I digress. What does this message say to advocates of public transit? Does this get their backs up? What message do we get about the people that are standing at this stop waiting for the bus? Does the message say “Hey loser, read the bench why don’t you!” I mean really all you have to do is call or go online and book a road test. The message seems to assume that people are riding the bus because they don’t have a driver’s license. There are people on the bus by choice. It also seems to say that all you need to do to get off the bus is take a road test. This is clearly not the case.
Sometimes the message delivered differs from the one intended. Most of the people that pass this bench do so in a private vehicle. Do these people say, “This message is not aimed at me?” If they do the money invested in the bench has no return. This is better, however, than the people that are annoyed. Give thought to who you are talking to and what they might take from your message. It’s not what you say but what people think you are saying that matters.